Alan Ball - Playing Extra Time
I got this book as part of a football book box set last Christmas and hadn’t quite got round to reading it but once I started, I couldn’t out it down. The ’66 World Cup happened before I was born but as an England fan I always had great affection for the little man that ‘ran himself daft’ that day.
This book got right into the detail of both the playing and managerial side of the game and the injustice of how heartless football clubs can operate. Obviously we only have Ball’s side of the story but such is the cynicism in the game I’m not entirely surprised to read about how it was, and is, being run.
I think what got me was the total lack of respect for someone, one of only 11 who have won football’s greatest prize, was treated at times. I was shaken to read that a 10 year old boy had spat him while he was manager at Stoke and how he was made to carry the can for the farce that was Manchester City in the late 90s.
On the family side there is the moving tributes to his wife, Lesley, who died of cancer and for his family and friends. I think what particularly hit home for me personally was that her death followed a not dissimilar pattern of my mother’s some five years later.
Alan Ball died two years after this book was written but reading it he seemed so alive that he must still be around somewhere. I remembering him playing for Southampton and always noted his managerial progress because of the England connection so when he died of a heart attack in 2007 I felt I’d lost a relative too. By a quirk of fate his funeral was two years to the day before my mother died.
I may have made this review a bit more personal to me but if you are a football fan then this is a must read. In a way, despite the problems he encounted along the way, he saw the golden age of football from the sixties until it began to eat itself with the money men of the Premier League.